A Productive Congress Gets No Respect From Voters

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press
The session of Congress now drawing to a close was the most productive in nearly half a century.

(White House photo)

The public panned it. Republicans obstructed it. Many Democrats fled from it. Even so, the session of Congress now drawing to a close was the most productive in nearly half a century.

Not since the explosive years of the civil rights movement and the hard-fought debut of government-supported health care for the elderly and poor have so many big things - love them or hate them - been done so quickly.

Gridlock? It may feel that way. But that's not the story of the 111th Congress - not the story history will remember.

Democrats are dearly hoping history won't repeat itself. In 1966, after Democrats created Medicare and Medicaid and passed civil rights laws, they got hammered in the election, losing 48 seats in the House and four in the Senate. They maintained their majorities in both at the time, but an identical result next month would turn the House over to Republicans.

In the 1960s Democrats paid the price for events largely outside their control - an escalating war in Vietnam going badly, rowdy anti-war protests and violence in American cities, said Linda Fowler, professor of government at Dartmouth College.

"I think that's what's going on this time too," Fowler said, "despite a very significant record of accomplishment."

Democrats struggling now to retain majorities in the House and Senate must deal with a public that is quick to blame Washington for the prolonged economic downturn, and that resents the bank bailouts that were actually passed by the previous Congress.

In terms of legislative successes, the current session of Congress is "at least on a par with the 89th Congress" of 1965-1966, said Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

But, he added, Republicans have done all they could to discredit Congress and Democrats have failed to sell their agenda. Moreover, it will take years to fully feel the effects of the health care law and financial regulation.

"A world dominated by bickering and epithet-throwing and bomb tossing in Washington obscures accomplishments," Ornstein said.

Congress passed an $814 billion economic stimulus package soon after President Barack Obama took office, tapping a staggering sum of money to avoid a full-blown depression. Democrats have trumpeted the gains from that effort, but know it's not enough for restive voters. "Americans still see themselves in a ditch," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer.

The two other landmark acts of this session were the health care overhaul, a giant step toward universal coverage that had eluded presidents back to Franklin Roosevelt if not Teddy Roosevelt, and the Wall Street accountability act.

Obama has also signed into law at least a dozen other pieces of legislation of significance. They include:

-Making college loans more affordable.

-The Cash for Clunkers program that helped rejuvenate the auto industry.

-New consumer protections for credit card users.

-Making it easier for women to challenge pay discrimination.

-Increasing federal regulation of tobacco products.

-Cracking down on waste in Pentagon weapons acquisition.

-Making attacks based on sexual orientation a federal hate crime.

-Giving businesses tax incentives to hire unemployed workers.

-Tax credits for first-time homeowners.

So where is the love?

Polls suggest three-fourths of Americans disapprove of Congress.

The 1960s were a time of upheaval, and Medicare only arrived after a bitter debate echoing with cries from the right that socialism was on the march in America. Yet people had a lot more faith in government to do the right thing, polls from that time indicate.

And Medicare grew to be so popular that Republicans, the party that resisted it, have been quick to accuse Democrats of trying to cut it when they proposed to slow its growth and use the savings to help provide medical care to millions who lack health insurance.

An erosion of trust in institutions in general has enabled Republicans to score points by arguing that Democratic Big Government programs are exploding the national debt, Ornstein said. The result, he added, is that not many Democrats are campaigning on the benefits of the stimulus package, even though one-third of it was tax cuts that put money in most people's pockets.

"The amazing thing is that we have had such a productive Congress despite the obstructionism," Hoyer said. "Republicans and their media have successfully sent out a message that the Congress has failed."

Democrats cling to a hope that voters in the last two weeks before the election will come to a more favorable view of how the party handled health care and the economy.

But in taking on issues for the history books, Democrats have failed on some matters close to the hearts of allies whose energy is vital in an election. Legislation making it easier to unionize workplaces is stalled, Hispanics are still pressing for an overhaul of the immigration system and environmental groups want action on climate change.

Democratic leaders put off action for nearly two years on preventing a massive tax increase come Jan. 1, when the Bush-era tax cuts run out. And they couldn't even put a budget together this year. But it's not what Congress didn't accomplish the past two years, it's what it did do that seems to have voters most riled.

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  • by Lane Location: C.S. on Oct 18, 2010 at 03:28 PM
    @Nath - I could not agree more strongly with you Nath. This is the most destructive Congress I have seen since I have been living, some 54 years now. Our nation is under siege, both from within and without. Our leaders display disdain for Americans on a daily basis. They do what they want, when they want. They could not care less about our Constitution and the principles this country was built upon. They no longer listen to "We The People". Very alarming to say the least to watch them strip us of our freedoms behind closed doors. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely". This is what we are now witnessing. Another quote comes to mid as well, "Apathy and Tolerance are the last gasps of a dying Civilization". I pray this is not the case. Conservatives had better dig in and fight back with all we are, before the Statists really do rule us all.
  • by JAN Location: COLORADO SPRINGS on Oct 18, 2010 at 02:17 PM
    Karen, I'm not blaming everything on them, I merely stated several items of interest just like everyone else has. I did not state my political choice, none of anyone's business but mine. I stated that we need we need to vote for the BEST PERSON AND TO REMIND PEOPLE TO VOTE. CHANGE CANNOT TAKE PLACE UNLESS A PERSON VOTES!!! AND CHARLIE... JUST FOR THE RECORD I HAVE BEEN GAINFULLY EMPOLOYED FOR OVER 25 YEARS, HAVE NEVER BEEN ON ANY KIND OF ASSISTANCE, NOR PLAN TO BE. I do however support that you should be a U. S. registered citizen in order to receive any kind of benefits in this country.
  • by Karen Location: Colorado Springs on Oct 18, 2010 at 01:13 PM
    @Jan-Do you remember the Clinton adminstration at all? You cant blame everything on Republicans. Some started long before Bush took office. 1) War-everyone wanted to fight back in the beginning,dont complain now bc its taking to long. 2)Healthcare-I thought Obama wanted to take people off of Welfare instead he gave them more and charged us for it. 3)Bush (McCain)didnt sign off on the bailout bc there werent provisions in there to keep it from reoccurring again. Obama just signed away and didnt regulate the handout. But congratulations to the dems. for taking credit on not taking another raise next year, when the idea actually started with a Repub. during the Bush admin. How much you wanna bet by the time Obama is done people on Welfare will be living better than the people paying for it? Oh and if you want to place blame then trace it back to the Reagan admin. Remember, Alan Greenspan?
  • by charlie Location: C/S on Oct 18, 2010 at 12:57 PM
    Jan you just keep on a drinkin that koolaid. If you would take the time to read anything other than a comic book you would know that the Democrats were in control of congress way before Obama started his destruction of America crusade. I'm bettin your one of them that lays around waiting for your welfare check.
  • by MGR on Oct 18, 2010 at 10:55 AM
    And they have the audacity to ask where the respect is. Last I checked, respect was something that was earned, not bought. Congress has done very little in my view to earn any respect.
  • by s Location: BF on Oct 18, 2010 at 10:28 AM
    Productive would be a little more plausible if the money was there to pay for the legislation. Instead they have run the national debt up to more than $13 trillion (93% of GDP), not to mention the aditional $110.8 trillion in unfunded liabilities. What is the big deal with this congress and administration wanting to be like Europe?, WE THE PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO BE LIKE EUROPE. They have decent health care, but you have to wait months for treatment. Many European countries have national debts within 93% of their GDP and it's not working for them (Greece) can't we just be America, and give American capitalism another chance to do again, what it did before to make this country great? No system is perfect, but capitalism is as close as it comes, the proof is in the past success of this country before it was steered in a large government direction.
  • by Nicole Location: Colorado Springs on Oct 18, 2010 at 09:51 AM
    lol, this report fails to mention ALL that this Congress has done. For example, how about the incomprehensible spending that is going to raise our taxes eventually through the roof. It's part of step 3 to Fabian Socialism. Here are the steps: 1)establish a minimum wage and social welfare program 2)government ownership and control of land, utilities, transportation, mineral resources and heavy industry 3)doing away with personal property, savings and investments through taxation 4)disarmament, an international court, international controls, and ultimately a one-world government How much has this Congress done to forward this agenda?! It's scary, isn't it!
  • by JAN Location: COLORADO SPRINGS on Oct 18, 2010 at 09:46 AM
    I am wondering why are the people that voted for Bush complaining now? Do I need to remind you of where our government was at before Obama. Come on now, I don't agree with all that Obama has done; but he has done something to try to correct the Republican's mess they help create prior to Obama. three quaters of all Americans complaining of the better programs, those programs in place to help Americans in need, they themselves, or someone near to them will be utilizing one or more of the Democratic programs put in place. But still Republicans wine and carry on that they were so much better off. Balogne! We are all still trying to rebound from it all. What about a fabricated war???? What about the lies Bush told. How about the vote count or lack of count in Florida?? I don't think there is a politician around that give us complete honesty. They each give us lip service. It is all about politics and not the best person to be in charge. Everyone needs to vote November 2nd!!
  • by Nath Location: Colo Spgs on Oct 18, 2010 at 08:44 AM
    The current Congress has done more harm to the Founding Principles on which this nation was founded than any single session to date! Never has so much unconstitutional legislation been passed and signed (by an unqualified occupant of the White House http://federalistblog.us/2008/11/natural-born_citizen_defined.html) in the history of the nation. The Constitution has become totally meaningless in the last 2 years. There had better be a wholesale "cleaning" on November 2nd and the key word for the next Congress needs to be REPEAL, REPEAL, REPEAL. The arrogance of the Speaker of the House is unparalleled, not only did she sign off on Obama's qualification to run for president without a clue of what the qualifications are and then having the gall to say "We have to pass the bill (ObamaCare) to see what's in it." This woman is a moron. Harry Reid, over in the Senate is no better.
  • by Missy Location: Colorado Springs on Oct 18, 2010 at 08:19 AM
    "A productive Congress"? I think maybe a DESTRUCTIVE Congress. If the Americans had not opened their eyes to see the end result, this Country would be a Socialist regime. The only thing this Congress did was spend our tax dollars...badly, I might add.
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